If there is one dish Spain is known for around the globe, it’s undoubtedly paella. Heck, there’s even a paella emoji on your phone! So many of our clients leave Spain having fallen in love with this iconic dish and want to learn how to make it at home. While it’s true that it does take some mastery, as well as the right tools and ingredients, it’s more than possible to execute a delicious paella recipe stateside.

Here we’re getting down to the details of paella, from its history to its current politics, as well as our own Spain Savvy family paella recipe you can try at home.

The History of Paella

rice for paella recipe Paella is said to be a perfect union between the two historical Spanish cultures – the Romans for the pan and the Moors that brought rice from the Middle East to Africa and up into Spain in the 8th century. Legend has it that the Moorish kings’ servants created rice dishes by mixing the left-overs from royal banquets in large pots to take home. It’s said by some that that word paella originates from the Arab word “baqiyah” meaning left-overs.

While its ancient history is a bit foggy, rice has become a main staple in the Mediterranean diet and is grown all throughout Spain, from Cataluña to Andalusia. Today, paella is eaten all over the country. However, most experts agree that the dish was developed in Valencia by farmers working in the fields. They used what was available to them – rice, vegetables, rabbit, snails – and cooked up a cheap feast in the countryside. The highly absorbent rice specifically used for paella, arroz bomba, actually only grows in Valencia, in the Parque Nacional de la Albufera.

The Politics of Paella

making paella recipes in the streetsWhile it may seem like a simple rice dish, paella is a highly debated topic in Spain. You’ve likely seen or eaten paellas with a smattering of ingredients, ranging anywhere from green peas to chorizo to hard-boiled eggs. And while those variations aren’t necessarily bad, call them paella and you’ll hear the rumble of many Valencian grandmothers rolling around in their graves. The official paella according to most folks in Valencia is nothing more than rice, saffron, tomato, olive oil, garlic, paprika, water, and some variation on rabbit, chicken, and/or snails, as well as a specific type of local butter bean, flat green beans, and/or artichokes. They would also consider a seafood paella to be a paella, but there are restrictions here as well. Any variant – say pork ribs or squid ink – is nothing more than “rice with things.” Even if it’s made in the paella pan.

Where to Eat Paella in Spain

Valencia SpainThe cooks in Valencia and Alicante area make the best paellas in all the country by far. Outside of those regions, it can be tricky to find not only an authentic paella, but a well-made one. Because paella has become somewhat of a national symbol of Spanish gastronomy, restaurants all over the country tend to sell low-quality versions of the dish (or even frozen pre-made paellas) to tourists. Even if you’re venturing into the “rice with things” territory, you still run the danger of getting served a low-grade meal, which could easily ruin your first encounter with such a delicious culinary marvel. To play it safe, ask your travel designer for specific recommendations on where to eat paella while traveling in Spain.

Tips for the Perfect Paella Recipe

eating paella outside Paella is the perfect dish for feeding a crowd (there are paella pans that feed hundreds!) and is most commonly eaten on Sunday afternoons for lunch. We at Spain Savvy do a big paella at our home with family and friends a few times a year. It’s always a hit!

To make paella at home, you’ll definitely need a paella pan (the word paella actually refers to the pan, though sometimes its also called a paellera). You can cook paella over an open flame, your stovetop, or on a paella grill burner system, called a paellero. It’s perfect for cooking outdoors and almost every family in Spain owns at least one of these, often with multiple pan sizes and shapes. If you’re looking to get a hold of paella-making supplies and ingredients, including Bomba rice, check out La Tienda or Ibérico Club for all the best gear.

Keep in mind that the liquid to rice ratio can be tricky. While we’ve given you some measurements, the rule here is use twice as much stock as you do rice. You can use the same cup to measure and eye it if you want. It’s usually about one fistful of rice per serving.

Spain Savvy’s Family Paella Recipe

spain savvy's paella recipeWhile this paella recipe isn’t 100% by the Valencian book, it’s the way we do things. Every family in Spain has their own variation and so can you. For example, here we utilize both chicken and rabbit. If you can’t get a hold of rabbit, feel free to double the amount of chicken instead.


  • 1 head garlic, peeled
  • 1 medium-sized green bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 lb. Romano beans, cut into 3rds (you can also use green beens)
  • 2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 6 whole artichokes, peeled down to the soft parts and cut into pieces
  • 1.5 lbs. whole bone-in, skin-on chicken, cut into large chunks
  • 1.5 lbs. whole entire bone-in, skin-on rabbit, cut into large chunks
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bouillon cubes
  • 3 cups Bomba rice
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Rosemary sprigs
  • Lemons or tomatoes for garnish


  1. You’ll want to break in your paella pan ahead of time by rubbing it down with a clove of garlic. You can also soak the beans ahead of time in ice water with lemons to soften them up and prevent oxidation.
  2. Heat your paella pan over medium heat. When your pan is hot, add a drizzle of olive oil and sauté the garlic, green peppers, beans, tomatoes, and artichokes.
  3. Once your vegetables are soft, add the saffron and sweet paprika. Give it a quick stir, remove the ingredients from the pan, and set aside.
  4. Add another drizzle of olive oil to the same pan and cook the meat until browned and almost fully cooked.
  5. Add the vegetables back into the pan with the meat. Cover with chicken stock and break up the bouillon cube in your hands, sprinkling it on top.
  6. Add the rice evenly throughout the pan in a thin layer.
  7. Garnish with a few rosemary sprigs and cook for 6 minutes over high heat, followed by 5 minutes of low heat.
  8. When you’re ready to serve, you can decorate it with lemons, tomato wedges, or even with some colorful bougainvillea flowers from your garden like we did! ¡Buen provecho!